During his first year on campus, Dom Uhl was pretty much just there. At the beginning of the season he stood out because he had a sweet hairdo, but that soon went by the wayside and he just kind of faded into the background for the remainder of the season. And that's not an insult to Dom, because expectations weren't all that high for him this year to begin with. Making the jump to college basketball is difficult for most players who aren't McDonald's All-Americans, and you could see the learning curve in full effect with the German combo forward this season.
In all honesty, I wasn't sure what to expect from Uhl as a freshman. At the beginning of November, I was excited to see him play because I wanted to get a better feel for his game. Was his offensive style going to be more similar to Aaron White, Melsahn Basabe, or Jarrod Uthoff? Unsurprisingly, as it turns out, he's his own individual. He's got the bounciness of White and Basabe, but thus far in his career he's more perimeter-oriented like Uthoff, only without the great outside shot.
Uhl didn't provide much for Iowa this year on offense, and he actually gave away value on that end of the court against Big Ten foes. But thanks to his length and athleticism, he was able to give Iowa some value on the defensive end this season.
It's too early to know what to expect of his career, but I think we all can see he's definitely got some untapped potential.
Season in Review
As a true freshman, Uhl didn't see the floor a whole lot this season. For the first three months he averaged about 11-12 minutes per game, but even that dropped off considerably in February and March.
And no offense to Uhl, but the drop in minutes was a good thing for Iowa. Because even with as much as I like Uhl, those minutes were better spent keeping guys like Aaron White and Jarrod Uthoff on the court longer down the stretch of the season. It wasn't a punishment for Uhl playing terrible, it was just the realization that Uhl was too young and too raw to really offer much of anything to the team other than giving the upper classmen some quick breathers at the end of the year.
So what did Uhl's overall value look like this year?
As you would expect from a guy fresh out of high school, it wasn't great, but he tended to play better against non-conference opponents. What value Uhl did give Iowa, tended to come on the defensive side of the ball, where he was a pretty good defensive rebounder for a guy who spent a good chunk of his time playing the small forward position.
His overall value to the team tended to track somewhat closely with his defensive rebounding performance. And while March looks like a good month against tougher competition, keep in mind that he only played 5-6 minutes per game, so just scoring a basket and getting a defensive rebound in that time frame would look good for his adjusted game score.
Basically, we can see that Uhl's best month came in December, but since months are just arbitrary end points for these splits, if we refer back to the per game chart above, we can see his best games of the year (where he played meaningful minutes) were against Alcorn State, Northern Illinois, and Rutgers. As good as Davidson and Illinois look, he only played a combined 11 minutes in those games. If you are looking for the best performance against a good team, in which he played meaningful minutes, you could argue that his 4 point, 3 rebound, and 1 block night in 16 minutes against Iowa State was pretty good.
My point being here, is that Uhl was your basic true freshman in that he tended to play his best against bad teams and really struggled against good teams. And that was pretty clear when we look at his win share totals.
Yes, you are reading that correctly, Dom Uhl was actually worth -0.2 offensive win shares against Big Ten competition this season. And he was just able to break even against non-conference competition. Unsurprisingly, all of his value came on the defensive side of the ball.
2014-2015 wasn't a masterful performance, but it wasn't a total disaster either. Rather, Dom Uhl looked like a true freshman, just like we all expected.
Again, Uhl didn't really offer Iowa much of anything on offense this year. He was pretty much the last option on offense against both non-conference opponents and Big Ten ones.
From a shooting and scoring perspective, Uhl ended up being more perimeter-oriented than I thought he would be coming out of high school. That was a bit surprising to me, because he appears to have pretty good handles (he brings the ball up the court on a semi-regular basis), so I figured he would have much more of a dribble-drive lean to his game. That could still develop over his next three seasons, but that wasn't a gigantic part of his game this year.
Looking at his shooting numbers, and it's plain to see that he is either going to need to develop a much better outside shot or start attacking the basket more if he wants to be an offensive threat. Preferably, we would like him to do both, but outside shots are not always something that develop quickly, if at all (see White, Aaron). That means I'm hoping for more slashing and shots around the rim from Uhl next season.
What I would also like to see is for Uhl to clean up on the offensive boards more. He's got the height, length, and athleticism to be a force on the offensive glass, and besides attacking the rim off the dribble, second chance points would be a good way for him to contribute next season. And with the graduation of White and Olaseni, the offensive rebounding opportunities will be there for the taking.
With the graduation of Aaron White, Uhl is the most experienced guy returning who can play the power forward position in 2015-2016. The graduation of our beloved ginger ninja leaves the Hawkeyes with about 31 minutes per game that they need to fill next season. I expect most of those minutes will be split between Uhl and incoming JUCO forward, Dale Jones. But true freshmen like Ahmad Wagner or Brandon Hutton could also factor in at the power forward position, too. And Iowa is bringing in a bunch of guys who play on the wing, so I'm interested to see if that moves Uhl closer to the rim more often than he played this season. Playing time and lineups are hard to predict, but I expect Uhl to get somewhere in the neighborhood of 18-20 minutes next season. Barring Jones coming in and winning the starting position right away, Uhl will probably be the starting four when next season tips off.
So what do we need to see out of him in order to win the starting spot and keep it? Well, not being a negative on offense would be a nice start. Iowa won't be looking to him for scoring, and I'm not convinced that he will be a huge scorer by the time he leaves the program. However, being able to attack the basket and possibly cleaning up on the offensive glass would be a valuable skillset for him to provide. And if next year's team gets out in transition more often, Uhl should be a guy who benefits from being out on the break. I also hope we see him replacing Aaron White as the guy who runs the baseline lob on a regular basis. Because unless Uhl can prove that he has a consistent jump shot, most of his offensive value is going to be playing at the rim.
On defense, I would like to see Uhl continue to grab defensive rebounds at a nice clip. If he ends up playing the power forward spot a little more, then hopefully just being near the basket more often will lead to more defensive rebounds and possibly blocked shots. I also like Uhl in the 1-2-2 three quarter-court press that McCaffery likes to run. His length and athleticism make him a good fit for the guy at the top of the press.
Overall, I'm not sure what to expect from Uhl next season. As a true freshman, he was clearly overmatched against quality competition. He's clearly got a lot of athletic ability, but in order to make his offensive game more efficient, he likely needs to adjust the type of shots he takes next season unless he can develop a reliable jumper in the offseason. If he can take a big step forward on offense and continue to develop on the defensive side of the ball, he could be a valuable role player as a sophomore next season. He will likely be inconsistent, and it may not always be pretty, but there will likely be times when he also wows us with his athleticism. His game is raw right now, but 2015-2016 should be the next step in polishing it.
Next Up: Team Overview